FEBRUARY AND OTHER CELEBRATIONS

People talk about the future. A lot.

I say as someone diagnosed with terminal disease at 45.

Waiting on scan results today I made chow chow, a recipe from my great-great grandmother who as far as I know lived in West Virginia coal mining towns her whole life. I wonder how dear two tablespoons of mustard seeds and one tablespoon each of ground clove and ground cinnamon were to her, there and then, somewhere between the Civil War and the end of the 19th century. I put more in of all of the spices, because I can — plus fresh garlic and hot peppers, which she probably never would’ve had access to. Or tasted: or even heard of.

Time collapses in strange ways when you know for sure you’re dying. My past now feels like the bellows of an accordion, expanding and contracting. Random. Not beautiful like music. Most days my 8-year-old self feels unreachable, but once in a while I get a glimpse of her, and having that version of me right next to myself hurts, feeling all that hope in me.

The present is mostly real. And when I’m waiting on scan results the future is not only unknowable, but too much of a hypothetical to consider. Even next week. If the scan results suck then I’m on new treatment, which might take what’s left of my quality of life away. If they really suck I might have so little life left that quality will be a dream state. In the past few days I’ve had: an EchoCardiogram, a CT scan, a bone scan, and a brain MRI. Any one of their results could mean I’m nearing the end of getting on my bike, going for a swim, paddling my kayak.

And if it’s not this round of scans it will be the next round, or the next.

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It’s now ten days later into my present which used to be my future and I’m still here, the scans were mostly good, I’ve been on my bike and in my kayak, on the yoga mat, at the gym and in the pool and walking, walking, walking. A friend tells me she has a hard time explaining me to people: 51 rounds of chemo, and I can’t talk to her when she calls because I’m in the middle of a workout at the gym. Squats are my present, not my future; I have to concentrate.

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